The survey, covering 425 colleges in Britain and Northern Ireland, shows the median basic salary for female principals rose by 4.2 per cent last year to pound;62,500.
Male principals saw a 3 per cent increase to pound;61,812. In 199899, the median basic salary for men and women was identical at pound;60,000.
Just one in five college principals is female. The AOC survey, which covers pay for a range of senior and middle managers, included 89 women principals or chief executives and 335 men.
But more younger principals are women. Eleven of 31 principals aged under 45 were female. Sixty-five of 89 female principals had been in their current job less than five years.
The survey suggests that women can have a strong bargaining position over pay. Unlike most managers in colleges, whose salary is determined by their point on a pay spine, the pay of principals is deermined by a college's governing body.
Ken Clarke, chief executive of the Association of Principals of Colleges, warned against reading too much into one survey. "It would be wrong to jump to any conclusions, but clearly there has been an increase in female principals during the past five years which is good to see," he said.
The turnover of principals and chief executives appears to have fallen slightly. The survey shows that 26 per cent of all principals have fewer than two years' service while 14 new principals were appointed last year, compared with 37 three years ago.
The full remuneration of principals varies considerably, partly according to the size of college. One in five is awarded a car as part of their benefits package while 13 per cent are eligible for bonuses. The AOC, which wished to make the survey results confidential, declined to comment on the findings.
* A special report on managers' pay appears in the September edition of TES College Manager